Federal authorities have charged three men from rural central Illinois with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year.
The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed just before morning prayers on August 5, causing a fire and extensive damage although no one was injured or killed.
All three arrested are from Clarence, a rural community of less than 100 residents some 56 kilometers north of Champaign-Urbana.
Michael B Hari, 47, one of the arrested men, described in an April 2017 Chicago Tribune article how he drafted a $10bn plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, citing President Donald Trump’s call for such a wall.
Hari drew up the proposal after launching a security company, Crisis Resolution Security Services, the newspaper said.
Hari also filed a federal lawsuit just last month in central Illinois, naming the US secretaries of agriculture and health and human services as defendants. It accuses their departments of violating his constitutional rights by doing the food-safety certification work that his firm, Equicert, does.
“The People of the United States have rejected the Marxist doctrine that the government shall own the means of production,” he wrote, according to the court document. He requested a court order barring federal officials from interfering with his business.
Michael McWhorter, 29, allegedly told an FBI agent during an interview that the three rented a pick-up truck in Champaign and drove more than 805 kilometers to Minnesota with a plan to bomb the mosque, according to a criminal complaint.
He said they wanted to let Muslims know they are not welcome in the US and “scare them out of the country,” according to notes taken by the FBI.
Joe Morris, 22, told one informant that Hari had promised to pay him and McWhorter $18,000 for participating in the mosque bombing, according to the complaint.
A fourth man was charged with a gun offence, but he was not identified as a suspect in the bombing or attempted bombing.
The FBI had offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in the bombing. It’s unclear if the reward money will be paid.
A tip in December led authorities to investigate the three men, after a person sent the local sheriff photos of guns and bomb-making material inside Hari’s parents’ home, where Hari often stayed.
In January, a second informant told authorities that the three men had carried out the mosque bombing and the failed clinic bombing, according to the complaint.
Somali: The Islamic Center primarily serves Somalis in the Minneapolis area and houses a mosque and religious school for children.
Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside of East Africa, with an estimated 57,000 people, according to the most recent census estimates.
Bomb: Officials said at the time that witnesses saw someone throw something from a truck or van before the mosque blast and saw a vehicle speed away afterwards.
An affidavit says the men broke a window to the imam’s office and threw a pipe bomb containing black powder into the mosque. The pipe bomb exploded, causing a fire that was extinguished by sprinklers.
One of the arrests, McWhorter, described a PVC pipe bomb and said Morris broke a window and threw it in, where it failed to go off, according to the complaint.
Imam: Mohamed Omar, the center’s executive director, said at the time that the mosque didn’t receive any threats beforehand or claims of responsibility afterwards.
Minneapolis FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Bone said authorities no longer believe there is any further threat to the community in connection with this incident.
Governor: Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton called the bombing an act of “terrorism” when he and other officials visited the mosque the day after the explosion.
“That bombing that took place last summer was a tragedy for all Minnesotans,” US Attorney Gregory Brooker said, adding that it remains a top priority for law enforcement.